Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Royal Navy's latest aircraft carrier nears completion at Rosyth

HMS Queen Elizabeth at Rosyth
Image caption Work on HMS Queen Elizabeth is nearing completion at Babcock's Rosyth Dockyard

Assembly work on the biggest ship ever built for the Royal Navy is nearing completion at Rosyth, in Fife.

New aerial pictures of the HMS Queen Elizabeth have been released by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.

The images show work well advanced with both "islands"' now in place.

And all that remains to be fitted to the ship are two sponsons - flight deck extensions - and the ramp or "ski-jump"' which give aircraft an extra boost on take-off.

The "aft island" was the final section to arrive at Rosyth and was constructed in 90 weeks by workers at BAE Systems' yard in Scotstoun, Glasgow.

When complete and fully fitted out HMS Queen Elizabeth will weigh 65,000 tonnes.

It is the first of two new carriers being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.

The second, HMS Prince of Wales, is currently under construction at shipyards across the UK before it too is assembled at Babcock's Rosyth Dockyard.

Programme director Ian Booth said: "These new images show really clearly how far this programme has come. We are well on the way towards delivering a world-class aircraft carrier that will represent the UK globally for the next 50 years.

"By the end of this year HMS Queen Elizabeth will be fully assembled and we are already looking forward to her launch in 2014.

"There are thousands of skilled men and women working on this programme and they should all feel proud of what they are accomplishing."

HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, which includes BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the UK Ministry of Defence.

The carrier project is one of the largest defence orders placed in the UK, with a price tag of £5.5bn-plus. It is the second biggest engineering project in the UK behind the Olympics.

The carriers will be three times larger than Britain's Invincible Class Aircraft Carrier and the second biggest in the world behind America's 90,000-ton Nimitz class.

Enormous crane

A total of 10,000 British workers across six dockyards and three companies - BAE, the owner of the Portsmouth dockyard, Babcock International and the electronics group Thales - are building the ships.

In addition to Rosyth, BAE's yards at both Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde have been involved, along with yards in Appledore in Devon, Hebburn in Tyneside, Birkenhead in Merseyside and Portsmouth.

The sections are being pieced together at Rosyth using an enormous crane which was transported by sea from China.

The first piece of steel was cut in 2009 but HMS Queen Elizabeth will not be finished until 2016 at the earliest, and may not be ready for action until 2020.

The construction of the HMS Prince of Wales will overlap and the current plan is for one of them to be operational while the other is kept in "extended readiness".

When it is finally ready, the Queen Elizabeth will only be able to navigate the Forth Bridge and reach the open sea by waiting for low tide, and even then they will have to retract the radar masts.

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